When people say they want to build “lean muscle” or they are going on a “lean bulk” what they are essentially saying is that they are going to build muscle and bulk in a controlled manner. There is just MUSCLE. Not lean, not bulky. It’s all the same muscle. Similarly with the word toned – there is no such thing as being “toned”. What toned actually means is that the person who you are referring to as “toned”, has taken time to build muscle and then also took time to shed the fat to reveal that muscle.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is what we call a “dirty bulk” which in the bodybuilding world simply means to YOLO your diet, eat as much as you can, and just focus on gaining weight and not caring if it’s fat or muscle. I personally do not prefer this method nor do I suggest it because the more fat you gain, the harder your fat loss phase will be.
So how do you build the lean muscle like we are talking about? Well, like I said, it must be a controlled approach to gaining muscle. This means slowly increasing your calories over time, possibly just stopping the increase when you’re in a slight surplus. You don’t need to be eating a ton over your maintenance calories to build muscle or make progress. You should also be monitoring your weight and your measurements over time so that you make sure you’re not gaining too much too fast.
It takes a long time to build muscle, but in my opinion, it’s more beneficial to take a longer and controlled approach. This is so you can maintain a leaner physique and make your cut easier once you decide to shoot for fat loss.
- You need to eat in a calorie surplus (more calories than maintenance) but increase calories SLOWLY and/or only be in a slight surplus
- Have a proper training program focusing on progressive overload
- Give it time and have patience!
- Don’t do TOO much cardio (can and should still do some)